4.09.2006

Miss Snark's Eyebrows Elevate

Dear Miss Snark,

Anna Genoese recently came out against putting the RWA PRO designation in one's cover letter. In case the RWA PRO has not yet come to the attention of Miss Snarkalicious and KY, PRO is awarded when one can prove one has submitted a completed manuscript to either an agent or an editor. Achieving PRO does allow certain extra perks from RWA, such as attendance at special sessions at the annual conference and access to email loops. Should one add this publishing credential to their cover letter or does it scream "Nitwit of the Day" to any publishing maven who sees it?
Thanks again for your marvelous blog!!! I read it and learn something every day.
Sincerely,
A devoted snarkling


What the fuck?

Calling for the Clue Gun!


Let's get this straight right away: a publishing credential means something has been published. Not submitted. Not looked at. Not ogled. Not asked for. Not even critiqued by a less snarky agent than Miss S.

This is NOT not not a publishing credential.

If you put "I've earned RWA PRO status cause I've been asked for full manuscripts by an editor or agent" my response is "so what".

What is RWA trying to do here? I'm not a member; I don't do romance; I'm clue free about the thinking behind this nitwittery. Feel free to clue me in!

I'm with Miss Genoese on this one. She's a smart cookie.

39 comments:

M. G. Tarquini said...

I am a member of SCBWI, the AMA, Hot Shot Writers of America and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I've been given Pro Status in the RWA for the manuscript I am querying with this letter. Until my membership card comes through, please accept the attached copies of 563 previous form rejections as proof of membership. Also, a copy of my AAA card is enclosed.

Thank you for your time. An SASE is also enclosed, as well as photos of my pet snake, Cuddles.

Gina Black said...

>> She's a smart cookie.<<

As long as it's vegan. ;)

Anonymous said...

The thinking behind PRO status within the RWA was to encourage members to actually FINISH their manuscripts, not just polish the hell out of their first three chapters and enter a lot of contests with them. Members wanting to apply for PRO status must show the RWA a completed manuscript and proof of submission to an editor or agent. It was meant to be internal recognition of advancing in your career (hey, not everyone has the ability or fortitude to actually complete a manuscript), but evidently a lot of query writers have mistaken it for something more and think it means something to the rest of the publishing world.

All I can figure is that they thought it was a way to demonstrate to editors and agents that they CAN turn out a finished product. Somewhere along the way someone told them they needed to include their "credentials" in a query letter--something to show that they were "professionals"-- and this was all most of them had. Now someone needs to go back and tell them, "Never mind the 'credentials'. Good writing trumps all."

Jan Conwell said...

At the risk of outsnarking Miss Snark (ducks the flying rotten fruit) I can't believe this individual actually emailed this question...did she not get it the first fifty times? NOBODY OUTSIDE RWA CARES ABOUT YOUR PRO PIN. (And quite a few inside RWA.)

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding (and I am a PRO member), that it's more of an internal incentive program. It encourages to people to finish the dang thing because there are a lot of members who never get past the "I think I want to write" phase or the "polishing" phase.

You also get access to special workshops and lists designed for people in the "not yet sold but actively pursuing it" category. Finally, you get an earlier opportunity for agent/editor appointment registration.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

I would never include a mention of Pro Status in a query letter ... but as a member of RWA, I will explain to Miss Snark WTF is going on.

Unlike some other writer's associations, the RWA tries to keep their dues low ... which opens the gates to a lot of, ahem, amateurs, for want of a better word.

Some of them never actually finish a book. Some of them just DREAM of finishing a book. Some of them have a hundred half-finished novels battling dustbunnies for space under the bed. Some of them have finished a novel, but never submitted it.

PRO status means something ONLY in the confines of the RWA. It means (a) you've finished a novel; (b) you've submitted said novel through the proper channels to either an agent or an editor; (c) an agent or an editor HAS REQUESTED THE FULL and requested it IN WRITING; and (d) two officers of your local group have verified this by seeing your complete MS and the agent/editor's written request.

It is a way to separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak. PRO members of RWA are seen as serious, determined professionals who are jumping through all the right hoops to get published.

Think of it like you would an apprentice, journeyman and master. The apprentices are the ones who simply pay their dues; the journeymen are the ones who reach PRO status; the masters (of course) are the ones who are published.

But it means NOTHING outside of RWA. To an agent or editor, you belong to either one group or another: published or unpublished. That's it.

Kelly said...

The Anonymouses have it. Why anyone would consider RWA Pro status a "credential" for query purposes is beyond me. It means zero outside of RWA. And not a heckuva lot inside it; just gets you access to some more interesting areas of the Web site and e-mail lists where a slightly larger percentage of the members are serious writers.

Kathy said...

Oddly enough, this just came up on another list I'm on.

Although I agree that PRO status says NOTHING about your writing ability, and in fact means you've never been published, I do remember seeing a couple of agent interviews, in which the agent said queries with "RWA PRO member" on the envelope went to the top of the slush pile.

So, for some (not all) agents specializing in romance, it may be one mild indication that this person is serious about learning the business.

I'm RWA PRO, and don't mention it in my queries, but I don't think mentioning it is nitwittery, ipso facto.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

So, should I send my query letters out on my royal stationary? It's pretty. It has an embossed representation of the Order of Franz Joseph in the upper right, a very nicely understated crown over my name, and I always sign it with my full name: Victoria Louisa Gabriella Henriette Rachael Michelle Elizabeth d'Orléans - de Vienne, Queen of Goats, Rightful Queen of Scotland, Commander Royal of the Order of Tanath, and All Around Nice Person.

I could add perfume and a box of my mother's chocolate chip cookies too. I know Ann G. likes cookies.

Kathy said...

Oops -- Miss Snark, I just submitted a comment before finishing my afternoon cup of coffe, and think I said something about mentioning PRO status not being proof of nitwittery "ipso facto." Now that I've finished my coffee, I realize I meant "per se."

Could you edit that out before you approve it?

Thanks, for this and everything.

Kathy, now fully caffeinated

Anonymous said...

I don't think that finishing and submitting a novel makes you a pro. It means you've just started, so it puts you a step above amateur. I can't tell you how many really bad books I've read that some author "finished".

I understand that it's an internal RWA designation, but, geeze, some people seem to take this pretty seriously.

Kendall said...

Snarky rant ahead....

I read lots of replies on ALG's blog (and some here) saying smug things like, "Don't worry, I'd never do that." This misses the point, methinks -- this ironic, disingenuous branding by RWA does confuse some of their members.

I just skimmed the app for 'pro' status in RWA. It's open to unpublished writers, and all you need is "(1) correspondence from any publisher or literary agent, stating receipt or review of work, or (2) copy of a contract signature page indicating sale of the manuscript. A proof of mailing (US postal service) and a postcard from the publisher indicating receipt of material are both acceptable forms of correspondence." [Bold added.] (This explains why supposedly some people submit something they finish just to get the designation, knowing they'll get rejected.)

Cynthia: I see nothing about a request for a full; it appears one just needs to send something to the slush pile and get proof of same. (See below*, I'm not saying there's something wrong with that.)

So I'm baffled that folks think it's query-letter-worthy or (shudder) envelope-worthy. (Do editors/agents even read or see the envelope, in most cases? ;-)

* But sure, RWA encouraging writers to finish and submit their writing is great. Incentives like a pin and membership perks -- also sound groovy.

But here's my point (sorry to take so long): RWA should rebrand this pin to something less misleading. They do (some of) their members a disservice by calling this thing "pro" when it means the opposite.

donning flame-retardant jacket

Maya said...

Anonymous Cynthia is incorrect. PRO status is NOT awarded for having an agent/editor request a full. It is awarded for submitting and receiving a response from an agent/editor--even a rejection.

I've been a member of RWA for almost two years, but have never seen the point of the whole PRO thing.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia, thanks for your explanation. I don't write romances, so I never heard of this before.

I like the "guild" approach. Everyone I've ever met is going to write a novel "some day", but very few have completed one and mailed it off. Even fewer have their full manuscript requested based on a partial.

Kudos to those who make it thus far; they should be proud of their achievement. Even though it shouldn't be mentioned in a query, since it screams "unpublished!", it is an important first step towards being published.

randy said...

I'm a little surprised at some of the mean-spiritedness behind the comments about RWA's pro status program.

And, yes. I'm a member, and I include the info in my queries because A PANEL OF AGENTS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED IT AT A WORKSHOP IN DALLAS.

Was I supposed to ignore that advice?

Aren't there worse things to be guilty of...like writing poorly?

Sheesh. Someone flog me with a wet noodle for, apparently, I have sinned.

Shelli Stevens said...

Okay, that was just funny.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one that asked Miss Snark the question as I wanted to verify what I should and shouldn't be putting in the "about me" section of the query letter. I would rather get it wrong with Miss Snark than in an actual query letter.

Janny said...

I agree with Randy. While RWA may have unwittingly encouraged their members to think that a PRO designation means more than it does--and while many of these people would think it does, whether RWA encouraged it or not(!)--there's no reason to kick the poor PRO designation around, either. (Just another form of romance bashing, and for what possible positive end? Yeah. None.)

Yeah, it's not a publishing credential...but who particularly cares about credentials in a query anyway? I can't tell you how many times aspiring writers ask me this, and I've always said the same thing: You're querying the work at hand, dearie. If your background, college degree, previous experience or particular taste in pets has a direct tie-in to the book and gives it some credibility, and you have space to put it in, go ahead. If not, forget it. No one cares if you've been happily married for 47 years, live in a geodesic dome, are the world's preeminent authority on speckled salamanders...or have a shiny PRO pin to show for some effort in the past. (I have one, too. Once you get published, however, it strikes me that that's a nice souvenir of where you've already been, not much more.) The reader cares about the work. If it grabs her or him, that's great. If it doesn't, all the "credentials" in the world won't mean squat.

But for those out there who have managed to finish a manuscript, get it out there, and have it actually received/read, etc.--there's nothing wrong with having a pin, and a special internal designation, to say so. We're in a business that regularly kicks us in the teeth; seems to me there's no harm in having a few kudos thrown in along the way to remind us that we have, in fact, done something toward achieving a publication goal.

My two and a half dollars' worth,
Janny

archer said...

Argh. We're college shopping for my son and academia is rife with this crap.

ME: So who has published what, recently? The faculty biographies don't say.

BORING PROFESSOR TYPE: Oh, well, Professor Blork has submitted the finished manuscript of his biography of Charlotte Bronte's neglected younger brother, Montgomery, and Professor Glork is nearly finished with his...

ME: Gosh, that's great!

BORING PROFESSOR TYPE (beaming:) Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I remember when the RWA PRO's program was initially put in place -- it was because there were some very vocal unpublished members (by no means a majority) who had finished manuscripts and received rejections and who felt the published members were soemhow getting preferrential treatment with PAN.

In response, PRO was created and at first it was nothing more than a pat on the head for having finished and submitted a manuscript. Now, PRO members get peferrential booking for agent/editor appointments at National and have an email loop and classes available for them which is a nice benefit.

Perhaps an agent did say put "RWA PRO" on the outside of the envelope for them -- this doesn't mean it's something that should be done across the board for all agents and editors. What we seem to have here is another case of advice being given in a specific instance and then being applied uncritcally across the board. I've seen a number of people in RWA do that, part of seeming to desperately hunt for "the secret" that's going to get them published.

Disclaimer: I've done my fair share of that in my day before I learned and such behavior is by no means combined to RWA members; I once knew a woman who decided "the secret" was submitting her manuscript directly to Oprah for inclusion in Oprah's Book Club -- and wouldn't listen no matter how many times she was told this might not be the best way to get her book noticed. She was livid when the package was returned unopened.

Anonymous said...

Is Miss Snark, by any chance, in posession of an original Perkins' Steam Powered Eyebrow Elevator? In its day, a marvel of modern, industrial engineering second only to the the turbines within the great Hoover dam. One cannot say one's eyebrows are elevated until they have been elevated by a Perkins. Anything else is just arch imitation done purely for effect.

Anonymous said...

The reason RWA has a designation like PRO is that RWA accepts unpublished members. Most other professional writers' organizations do not, therefore they don't offer programs such as this.

RWA PRO is merely a way to serve the portion of RWA's unpublished membership who have completed at least one manuscript and are at a point where they need to learn more about the business aspects of publishing.

The designation merely says that you've finished a book--which if you are querying an agent, should be a given. That said, if an agent tells you to include it in a query, by all means include it in a query.

Kelly said...

Janny said:

But for those out there who have managed to finish a manuscript, get it out there, and have it actually received/read, etc.--there's nothing wrong with having a pin....

Nothing wrong, no. Though I personally find it kind of embarrassing. It's like in elementary school, when some teachers were so afraid of hurting the self-esteem of the kids who didn't win whatever prize that they gave EVERYONE a prize. Well, no thanks. I'm a big girl, and I'd prefer to wait until I REALLY won a prize.

As someone else pointed out, RWA needs Pro because it accepts unpublished members. I dutifully submitted my proof of rejection because without the Pro designation, I would be barred from some of the more worthwhile aspects of a membership for which I pay a premium price. I don't even know where my pin is and don't care.

If one agent told me to mention my Pro status in a query to her, I would, but I wouldn't apply that request to all agents. I'm afraid most agents would just snicker at the Pro announcement. I know I would if I were them.

Not mean spirited. Just realistic.

Chris McLaughlin said...

LOLOLOLOLOL!!
OMG! THAT first question Her Snarkness posed is my favorite answer!

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Sorry for the confusion ... again, I was doing the unpardonable sin of passing on what someone else told me, one of my local chapter officers, to be specific. I'd been told that it had to be requested and that a postcard would not do (I'd checked to see if I were eligible based on my little confirmation postcard so that I could get into some of those PRO track workshops at the convention this year) ... for shame on the officer. And for shame on me for repeating something without verifying it.

Oh, and I'm a PRO many times over if all you have to do is have proof that it was finished and submitted.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, you know, those of us who have completed one or two manuscripts know the meaning of humility. Because I'm sure most of us have been left standing all alone long after the door was closed. And we try again. I'm a single mother trying to keep 2 teenagers off crack (no, I'm not kidding) and in school. Life ain't easy. I can't afford RWA dues much less a pin. IT's good I guess for those that have earned it. But I hate to think it would keep me from being read. Don't have pretty envelopes either. Sometimes,I have to borrow postage. But I keep writing.

Drunken scribe said...

I've never heard of "Look, I've been rejected, so now I've come to you!" being a very smart thing to put in a query letter.

This is not limited to the RWA. Members of other--ahem--non-restrictive writers associations think that mentioning membership gives them an edge.

I just mention my membership in AA. Court ordered, of course!

David Isaak said...

I think the PRO designation is a step in the right direction, and should be adopted by writing conferences in particular. It's so boring having all those posterior-sniffing (cf Killer Yapp)conversations trying to figure out everyone's ranking. In fact, it could be formalized as military-type insignia and worn on the sleeves.

Heart on Sleeve: romance writer.

No stripes: haven't completed anything, ever.

One yellow stripe: Complete ms. but afraid to submit.

Green stripe: Ms. submitted. (may also wear RWA PRO pin)

Rainbow stripes w/unicorns: Has agent.

Multiple red stripes: Has agent but was savaged by editors.

Red Bullseye: Had agent turn on them.

Bite mark: rejected by Killer Yapp and/or Mike Tyson.

Of course, other genres would have a different base insignia (and/or might be displayed on other parts of the anatomy).

aussie said...

To Anonymous who can't afford RWA dues, and anyone else who worries that lack of membership/Pro pin will in any way stop you getting read or published...

Have you noticed how many Australians have signed contracts lately? I have, because I'm on Australian elists. The announcements have come thick and fast. And while Aust. has an RWA, the A stands for Australia. There are no Pro pins. Australians can join the Aus chapter of the US RWA, but the few who do are mostly in it for the discounted contest entries.

I don't have pretty envelopes either, and postage from here to the US or UK is exhorbitant. But I keep writing too. I use reply coupons instead of stamping my return envelopes, I have no pro pin, and I have to accept that my country is not a suitable setting for many publishers.

None of that has kept my work at the bottom of the slush pile. I have the reply letters to prove it - and I don't mean form rejections, which wouldn't prove that point too well.

Enjoy your Pro pin if you have one, because finishing the book is to be proud of. But remember that the things some might deem vital may not even exist amoungst a good proportion of your fellow submitters.

Anonymous said...

RWA-PRO is not about getting a pin.

PRO gets you on loops with other romance writers who are at the same stage you are -- serious about getting published, trying to hone your skills and figure out the business. The loops are great places to swap water-cooler talk about writing, agents, romance publishing news, etc.

There are also regular online classes and workshops with agents, editors, booksellers, marketing people from publishers, and published authors who share what they wish they'd known before they got The Call. They answer the exact same kinds of questions Snarklings ask Miss Snark. The answers are not always as witty (although sometimes they are) but you get a broad range of expertise and opinion.

PROs and Snarklings are at about the same stage, from what I've observed. No reason for either to patronize the other.

Anonymous said...

Snort.

David, I love it!

But loving it aside, there is something to be said about a writer's organization that encourages wannabes to step up and complete some work. Kudos to the RWA. I think the rest is all miscommunication and misunderstanding.

A book on writing I once read suggested the following: Write a page every day. Either write a page of your novel or write a page of excuses as to why you aren't writing that novel. Over time one of two things will happen, you will find yourself consistently writing that novel or you will wake up to the fact that you don't really want to write and you'll stick to being a reader.

M.E Ellis said...

Never heard of it!

Post made me laugh, so thanks!

:o)

Sal said...

Over time one of two things will happen, you will find yourself consistently writing that novel or you will wake up to the fact that you don't really want to write and you'll stick to being a reader.

Liked this!

Anonymous said...

yah sheep, goats. PRO PAN. The lines don't mean a heck of a lot. The difference between PRO and PAN sometimes means someone got lucky once or a couple of times -- and it doesn't mean a whole lot more.

you know what I love? That people who are unpublished think that people who are published have crossed the magic line and know what the hell they're talking about. You get enough of that kind of treatment from the people in your local writing chapter and you start to believe it yourself. YES, I HAVE special powers to comprehend the world of publishing!

I've got five books out (with RWA-approved publishers) they did okay. I have an agent and three editors (at three publishers) and I get along fine with them -- I think we actively like each other. So it's not my breath. The books sold fine. SO? Well?

I DO NOT have a flipping clue why I'm not selling any more. I haven't sold a "real" book in three years. When it comes to understanding this stuff, I am right back where I was when I started. (only now I'll never be a hot new find.)

The only difference between now and a few years back? The rejection letters are a lot friendlier and are generally nicer about my writing. They don't come any less often or even any faster (which is a bummer).

randy said...

Anonymous wrote: RWA-PRO is not about getting a pin.

Thank you for saying that! Shoot, I don't even know wear mine is. It's not like we all rush up to each other at secret gatherings and hoot about people who don't have one.

For those who aren't able (for whatever reason) to join RWA--or who don't wish to for that matter--you're right. You don't need a pin, you don't need RWA, and you don't need Pro. You DO need to write and submit PERIOD.

Nobody who has Pro status with RWA is claiming otherwise. And (while we're at it) nobody who has pro status with RWA ever claimed it means their work is of better quality than those who choose not to apply or don't qualify.

Termagant 2 said...

Part of the reason PRO exists is that so many of us published (yeah, that's right--published) authors don't qualify for the PAN network.

See, if you sell to a house RWA doesn't consider worthy of calling a "recognized" publisher, you languish forever in PRO-land and don't qualify for the same status as those who've sold to real brick and mortar publishers who push books in real brick and mortar stores.

This "recognition" stupidity has been argued on the various RWA, and other, loops 'til we're all nauseated and beg 'em to stop. No consensus, no changes, not even a mild agreement that once RWA sets criteria for "recognition", maybe they oughta abide by those criteria.

And yes, I feel snarky about this because even now after three sales, I will not qualify. I'm starting to not give a rat's wazoo either way.

T2 in tarnished PRO pin

Catja (green_knight) said...

I'd just like to mention slightly smugly that SFWA membership is only open to those who sell two short stories to pro markets or one novel.

My genre, thankfully, does not suffer from contestitis - writers who seem to write three chapters to enter in contests and for whom complete books don't seem to be as important as 'finalling'.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here, or is putting RWA Pro on a manuscript redundant?

Pro status means one has submitted a query to an agent or editor.

Which means the manuscript one is writing RWA Pro on would, in itself, make one eligible for Pro status, though it might take a while for the paperwork who goes through.

Any RWA member who submits a manuscript is almost by definition an RWA Pro. Why would anyone need a formal designation to tell the agent what they know by the very fact that they've heard from you: that you're someone who submits manuscripts?

Dave Robinson said...

I think it's good to separate those who have finished and submitted manuscripts from those who have not. It's a necessary step to achieve publication. However, I don't think "Pro" was an appropriate choice for the name of that designation. Professionals get paid, these people do not. I'm in the same boat as many of them, I have a completed manuscript under consideration at one publisher, and another has asked to see the next on its completion, but that does not make me a "Pro." It simply shows that I am serious and working towards the goal.